B. Muralidhar Reddy

Donors criticise overemphasis on military strategy to meet LTTE challenge

GALLE: A day after delivering a tough message that there could be no development without peace, Sri Lanka donors on Tuesday agreed to provide "new development assistance" of $4.5 billion over 2007-2009.

The donors, who took stock of the current situation in the island nation, did some plain speaking about overemphasis on military strategy to meet the LTTE challenge and the Government's inadequate focus on a negotiated political settlement to the ethnic conflict.

A statement issued at the end of the two-day deliberations said that based on ongoing negotiations, it was expected that the new development assistance over 2007-2009 would be in the region of $4.5 billion. "With the existing funding in the pipeline, Sri Lanka's total development assistance will rise to around $9 billion within the next three years. With the renewed development initiatives in the Eastern and Northern provinces, this is expected to increase further."

According to a participant at the conference, though the donors had not put any conditions for development assistance, conversion of pledges into hard cash would be dependent on the progress of the peace process and a political settlement for power sharing.

At a news conference at the end of the Sri Lanka Development Forum 2007, Sarath Amunugama, Minister of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, said the decisions taken by the Forum was an endorsement of the development strategies under the Mahinda Chinthanaya.

The statement said the development partners indicated the importance of harnessing linkages among poverty reduction, governance, peace and equality and the need for addressing issues related to the implementation of the languages policy.

"The Government and the development partners agreed that terrorism should be separated from finding a solution to the conflict and that a lasting solution should be found through a negotiated settlement. They recognised that such a solution, which would involve improved power sharing and development cooperation, could expand the development horizon for the country, with higher aid and private capital inflows, including for accelerating the development of conflict affected and other lagging regions."